episode 10 – augmented poetry | Eran Hadas
In this episode, we speak with the new media artist and software developer Eran Hadas. Hadas build computer-based poetry generators that utilize the internet for their input what he calls: Augmented Poetry. We discuss creativity in machines, how he wrote a Eurovision song using robots, what he thinks about artists and technologists, his course Computational Literature course, and much more.
The transcript was prodcued by an algorithm. Mistakes might appear.
Nir Hindi: [00:00:00] Hey podcast listeners, and welcome back to the Artian podcast. And today, we are recording from tel aviv at Google for startups campus. And with us, we have Eran Hadas
[00:00:11] welcome Eran.
[00:00:12] Eran Hadas: [00:00:12] Hi Nir. It’s a pleasure to be here
[00:00:14] Nir Hindi: [00:00:14] Thank you for joining us.
[00:00:15] Eran Hadas: [00:00:15] Thank you for inviting me.
[00:00:17]Nir Hindi: [00:00:17] I want to start maybe with a very simple question for our listeners.
[00:00:22] Can you introduce yourself?
[00:00:25] Eran Hadas: [00:00:25] Uh, my name is Eran Hadas and I’m a digital poet. My background is in computer science, but I always. Had the passion for poetry and for art. And I decided to combine the two fields together, the kind of poetry I relate to the most is not a lyric confessional type of poetry, but rather an experimental kind of poetry that plays with language and tries to find the potential of language and they do that by using computer programming.
[00:01:07] Nir Hindi: [00:01:07] Great. so you kind of working in the intersection, I would say of computers and art , and you have like day job in a startup on the day to day as well. You are an artist and you also lead the development part in a startup company.
[00:01:25] Eran Hadas: [00:01:25] True. I always joke. And I say that I do poetry for a living and a high tech job for pleasure. You know, it’s not like that. Uh, it’s hard to make living out of art or poetry, especially in a small country like Israel and the tech companies
[00:01:43] Nir Hindi: [00:01:43] What we are famous for.
[00:01:45] so before I kind of go in depth into the poetry part, I wanna kind of ask you, what do you do exactly at the startup
[00:01:55] Eran Hadas: [00:01:55] I lead the R and D team, which means that I do write my own code, but I also try to find new technologies or try to bring. Technologies that are working to work better in my company, I have a yearly annual work plan and how to spend the resources and all of that, you know, um, a lot of project management, as a matter of fact, a lot of testing of, new technologies are relevant technologies to what we do and, uh, you know, tasks of Improving the code, the new features requests for change and all of that.
[00:02:39] Nir Hindi: [00:02:39] So this is what you do for pleasure. Let’s, let’s talk about what you do for a living. And you started say that you are a digital poet. obviously it’s already implies some of the things that you probably doing, but can you elaborate? a bit more. Why does it mean to be a digital poet?
[00:03:00] Eran Hadas: [00:03:00] The most basic thing is that part of the poems that I create are being created, not by me writing directly the words and putting them into sentences or lines and verses, but rather I write the code that generates the texts for me.
[00:03:21] Nir Hindi: [00:03:21] So now I have a question because it’s an interesting topic. So in that case, who is the creator you or the machine?
[00:03:30] Eran Hadas: [00:03:30] I hope to get through a stage where the role of the computer is central enough to call it the creator, but currently even with the state of the art, a AI, models, I think that the human part is still crucial.
[00:03:48] It is crucial, but it’s more central than the one by the AI. Uh, if you know many speak today of open AI is the GPD two model that generates paragraphs of texts. It’s completes an initial text that you give it. And it creates the one in Gmail. When I start to write the sentences offer it’s even a well, I don’t want to get into the competition, the commercial competition, but today there are models that can generate texts that seem or managed to imitate some features that we attribute only to humans, but still. I think the computers are still far from passing the Turing test and that’s a broad,
[00:04:38] Nir Hindi: [00:04:38] so maybe in one sentence you can share with our listeners, what is the touring test?
[00:04:43] Eran Hadas: [00:04:43] It’s a test where you are giving a computer, a task, and it performs it in a way that is indistinguishable from humans. You don’t know whether it was done by a computer or by humans.
[00:04:56] Nir Hindi: [00:04:56] You build computer-based poetry generators that utilize the internet for their input and you call it augmented poetry. Why you chose this definition? Augmented poetry.
[00:05:10] Eran Hadas: [00:05:10] That’s a good question because I kind of did projects in different areas and, uh, things got mixed up by me and by others. first of all, I have a project that is poetry combined with augmented reality.
[00:05:26] Nir Hindi: [00:05:26] What’s the name of the project.
[00:05:27] Eran Hadas: [00:05:27] It’s a book called half-reading.
[00:05:30] It was published in 2018. And, the idea is that you’ve got the poetry book where each poem has two halves. The first part is printed on paper and it’s on the left hand side of page. And on the right hand side page, you have this visual marker, a number printed on the. On the page. And if you direct your phone on it and you look at the number, then the other half of the poem appears virtually on the phone.
[00:06:03] And this is using augmented reality technology on the phone. It’s a web AR technology. You don’t need an app for it. You just go to a website and then, uh, point the camera. Over the page. So in this case, you can read the poetry only by having both the physical object, the book, and using technology.
[00:06:26] Usually it’s only one of the two, you know, people think that technology distracts people from reading. So if you want to read a paper book, uh, exactly. And so in this case, I kind of harness. The power of technology or the attention span of technology, the need, the urge of people to check their notifications.
[00:06:48] They have to have the phone and their hands. So yeah, you can have the phone in your hand, but at the same time it helps you to read the book. Yeah. So basically this is how my poetry connects directly to augmented reality, but I try to think of it in a broader sense where I’m taking poetry out of the page.
[00:07:11] Sometimes I’m bringing it back afterwards, but I think that poetry can be found in every place. It doesn’t have to be on paper and since it’s virtual and that. Can be, uh, created by computers and manipulated by computers on a virtual environment you can extend our augment the environment of literature from the page to the universe, to life.
[00:07:36]Nir Hindi: [00:07:36] by the way, this is a great moment to mention to our listeners that. And many of the things that Eran will mention during our conversation, we will later put on our website. So you can go check is a projects, the videos, some of the interviews, et cetera. So you know what I’m always interested. Why artists choose the discipline that operating at?
[00:07:58] And I’m wondering, why did you choose poetry? And not, I don’t know, argumented painting or sculptures or why poetry?
[00:08:08] Eran Hadas: [00:08:08] That’s a good question. This question that sometimes comes up when avant-garde artists are asked about their special media and often times they say that they just sucked at the normal.
[00:08:23] Kind of arts disciplines. So they had to make up something and I feel the same. I mean, I cannot paint well but I think I can speak a lot. I can write a well in Hebrew at least. And, um, and even so yeah, most of my poetry is not about writing, but sbout creating something that is not writing or tries
[00:08:48] Nir Hindi: [00:08:48] yeah. We’ll talk about in a second in some of the projects that you did. So I always wonder also, you know, because for me it is when I grew up art was a passion. And I’m wondering, how did you get into art?
[00:08:59] Eran Hadas: [00:08:59] poetry was a passion for me. I remember childhood. Yeah. Yeah. Being ten-year-old and reading all the poetry books in my parents’ apartment.
[00:09:09] I especially remember there was poet named Dan Peggy’s, who wrote poetry about the Holocaust among other things. And, uh, he built the verses to resemble trains, the trains that would lead Jews and other people through the concentration camps. And I didn’t know that at the time I was too young and I thought that something was missing at those verses.
[00:09:32] I thought it was a filling fill in the blanks. Kind of thing. So I wrote the things to complete the sentences. I didn’t get that.
[00:09:43]Nir Hindi: [00:09:43] but to do something and built upon and created something else.
[00:09:46]Eran Hadas: [00:09:46] Yeah. Yeah. So, uh, this is like the moment when I realized that it was like that. I felt okay. There is magic in the structure, in the form of texts and also in the capability to interact with them.
[00:10:00] Nir Hindi: [00:10:00] So you kind of grew up around culture around art as a young kid, or because you mentioned I read poetry at the age of 10. How did you even have access to poetry books?
[00:10:10] Eran Hadas: [00:10:10] Yeah, I guess it was by mistake. It wasn’t typical of my, I mean, My parents had like two poetry books. I think there was this discount on books by something socialist.
[00:10:23] I don’t remember exactly. So like everyone had a lot of books at home. No one would read them, but they were there. And I think until today, this is. Quite the situation in Israel. People buy a lot of books
[00:10:38] Nir Hindi: [00:10:38] by the way, in Japan. Now that I travel quite often to Japan, they have even a word for it for re-buying books, but not reading them.
[00:10:45] You know, Japanese have words for basically everything it’s beautiful because I’m like that I can never stop buying books. And I think that I need to retire probably in the next two years in order to be able to read it all
[00:10:57] Eran Hadas: [00:10:57] exactly. Or to develop a technologies that would read that for you.
[00:11:02]Nir Hindi: [00:11:02] for me, I’m enjoying probably in a way, like you, I’m still enjoying reading I don’t want anyone in that case to read it for me. I have this enjoyment and just getting into the characters into the books, into there.
[00:11:16] Eran Hadas: [00:11:16] But I feel that this is kind of disappearing in favor of other things, but, that’s why I called my book half-reading because you know, with, with your phone at hand, you’re always on alert.
[00:11:28] You know, uh, you cannot spend five minutes without checking the notifications.
[00:11:35] Nir Hindi: [00:11:35] Sometimes they find it horrible that we are so occupied by those notification. you know, you always kind of use a popular technology, such as artificial intelligence and robots to create art and one of the algorithms they actually built took the Bible.
[00:11:52] And broke it into haiku, right? Correct me from wrong. Obviously I’ll give you an, a second opportunity to explain it. And for the listeners that are not familiar with haiku haiku, it’s actually a form of poetry that come from Japan that builds on three sentences. The in order, the five syllables. Seven syllables in five syllables.
[00:12:16]can you tell us more about this project?
[00:12:18] Eran Hadas: [00:12:18] Yeah, it was a project that, uh, wasn’t, focusing so much on the technical side, uh, but was more of a conceptual project, I guess. And the idea was to go over the Torah, the five books of Moses and to extract only the verses. That adhere to the haiku convention of five, seven, five syllables.
[00:12:44] for me, it was kind of recreating the musical kind of remixes. You know, if you want to build the remix, you kind of take parts of a certain song or text or something. And. Place it on a beat. And for me the beats was the haiku, is it, it had this specific rhythm and they wanted the entire book to sound and the same rhythm.
[00:13:11] So I just took the parts that get along with it that go along with it. And it was. A musical experience, but it was also a linguistic experience that, I mean, I did it on the Hebrew or the biblical Hebrew or original text of the Torah, which is on the one hand the code of conduct for the Hebrew society, these rally society or the Jewish society.
[00:13:39] But it’s also uh, kind of linguistically challenging texts for Israeli children. You know, people, uh, at schools, students are struggling with it.
[00:13:51] Nir Hindi: [00:13:51] We read it with the Rashi with explanations.
[00:13:55] Eran Hadas: [00:13:55] Yeah. But it’s not just the explanation as an interpretation, but also it’s not the same language. We as Hebrew speakers, we treated that has the same language, but it has different grammatical rules.
[00:14:08] It has a different vocabulary. And, sometimes the idea of breaking the sentences and putting them in short verses give the sense of translation from the biblical Hebrew to a modern Hebrew. So for instance, there is this one verse speaking about israel running from the Egyptians and then the Egypt they’re chasing them.
[00:14:34] And it says that they die on the seashore, uh, in Hebrew it’s now on the other hand, in modern Hebrew methods further, I mean, I kind of did the beach. Let’s go to the beach, you know? So it changes the meaning from like a war to a death, to something like let’s go together. Yeah. So, yeah. A different reading can produce a different attitude.
[00:15:01] So in this sense, this project is not just writing, but also a reading of the Torah.
[00:15:07] Nir Hindi: [00:15:07] So is there a song that the machine wrote in you like from that project?
[00:15:12] Eran Hadas: [00:15:12] There are a lot of from that project. Yeah. The, the question is always in such projects, whether. Uh, you cherry pick the ones you love, or you take everything, which is like the exhaustive methods, whatever comes up, you take all of it.
[00:15:27] So in this case, okay, so in this project, the first page looks like poetry, but it’s, it has a 5,341 verses. And like 5,000 of them are close to jibberish, you know, cause it’s just cut from the wrong parts. So in this case I think there are like two hundreds that I like and the rest are meaningless.
[00:15:52]but in other projects I do, I sometimes cherry pick, it depends on the nature of the project. I’m not committed to scientific methods. Uh, you know, we’ll explore exactly. I want to explore those fields. Even if there are scientific in the sense or related to engineering, but I want to explore them from my aesthetic purposes or from my aesthetic perspective.
[00:16:18] Nir Hindi: [00:16:18] So I cannot ask you why do you like them? Because you already chose 200. So that will be probably challenging.
[00:16:24] Eran Hadas: [00:16:24] But the one central choice that I made is to pick all of them because I feel that in a sense, it has a value as one whole. It’s like, it’s a whole that has holes in it. You know, it’s like, you can read the entire story of the Torah and.
[00:16:41] Look at it as a broken story or a story with holes that you have to fill them in by yourself. And I think it’s, for me, it was a nice experience.
[00:16:50] Nir Hindi: [00:16:50] It also activates the imagination, filling those gaps. Yeah, I agree. So, I mean, you started to speak about you because you chose 200, the songs that you like.
[00:17:01]Eran Hadas: [00:17:01] I chose. Everything I chose the, the 5,300, but from them, those I really like, okay. You know, if I, if I go to a reading and I feel that the audience is ready for that, which is not always the case, this experimental part is parts of my book coat and it’s it’s titled code and then I won’t read everything.
[00:17:25] I, I read only the selected few.
[00:17:29]Nir Hindi: [00:17:29] kind of raises the question and you obviously did different projects with robots, with algorithm computers. It raises the question. Can machine be creative.
[00:17:41] Eran Hadas: [00:17:41] That’s a big question. Uh, that assumes that we are not machines because we attribute creativity to ourselves. Perhaps we are not creative. Uh, and, uh, then I mean, we,
[00:17:55] Nir Hindi: [00:17:55] what I love about artists, it’s always like, you know, challenging, even the basic assumption that we are a machine and not there.
[00:18:01] Eran Hadas: [00:18:01] Yeah. And that there are two assumptions there that we are not machines that we are creative. And I think that there is something about art, especially, but, it also applies to the human experience in general, that it’s not just about what you create, but also about how you experience the outcome of such a creation.
[00:18:25] So if a computer can write a poem that is not creative, but you experience it as the reader. as creative then I don’t care. I mean, I, he looks value valuable the same way. Yeah. So, but in this case, the role of humans becomes being a curator. you curate the, you curate the, the outcomes that the computer generated.
[00:18:53] So creativity can be also in make, can be making, but it can also be in. picking and selecting and gathering, even in art that is not related to technology. There’s this movement of an artist as a curator. So I think that’s computers can help us. Creating by them generating artifacts that we can select from and pick whatever we want from them and feels creative for us.
[00:19:28] Nir Hindi: [00:19:28] You’re touching an interesting point because you work a lot with these technologies. We often hear like kind of this black or white or approach to we against the machine machine. We’ll take our role and every time I speak with artists often, they speak about wheat. And machines, it’s not, we against them.
[00:19:49] They against us. It’s a war between humanities and the robots, but rather we are working together. What are your thoughts on that, obviously?
[00:19:58] Eran Hadas: [00:19:58] Yeah, so we started by, by saying that perhaps it’s not, we and them it’s. Oh us, you know, it’s like maybe they were the same. We are biological machines, but if we do make this identity culture distinction, then I’m proud of my identity as human, but, uh, I think that even today we see the technology sector serves us in ways that we didn’t imagine, you know, if people thought that in order to, uh, combine humans and computers, you have to be a cyborg.
[00:20:34] Then today it doesn’t have to get as physical as a cyborg. You know, we have our own memory. Each individual has their own memory, but we can also use the memory by queering, Google and or any other search engine. So we share this computerized shared memory of humanity. We have some assets that are shared to all of us and, uh, are mediated by technology.
[00:21:08] So is my memory just the things that I can remember by heart, or is my memory extended to the things that I can get within one second using a search engine. So I think that it’s also an augmentation or an extension of our buddy, apart from that, people, uh, I have a lot of extensions that are physical, like, uh, hearts, beats, Pacers, and now all of this stuff.
[00:21:36] So. I think that, we don’t have to be afraid of that. This is not the thing that I am afraid of.
[00:21:43] Nir Hindi: [00:21:43] What are you afraid of?
[00:21:44]Eran Hadas: [00:21:44] I think that there are a lot of problems with technology that STEM not from technology. It’s tough, but from the people who use it, we use it or have her, or are gained the power to use it.
[00:21:59] Uh, for instance, I want. Suppose I want to go to Facebook and see what my friends posted. I seldom do that and the last couple of years, but suppose I wanted to do that. So the friends that I’m going to see, the way the feed is displayed to me is determined by an algorithm and this algorithm may use the artificial intelligence, but it has a it’s own rules that may be determined by predetermined rules are by examples.
[00:22:30] It learned from that we’re giving to it by humans, but in any case device that would determine which of my friends I’m going to see or in other words, who are my best friends. The decision is not done by me. It’s done by an algorithm and this is something I don’t like. And I don’t like the fact that Facebook or some other company is going to determine things about my friends.
[00:22:57] I want my interaction with my friends is going to be conducted by me and not by technology. So this is a problem, but I don’t blame technology for it. Yeah, I would like to have a situation where such decisions are being created, not according to commercial profit, but rather by my social preferences, for instance.
[00:23:23]Nir Hindi: [00:23:23] it’s not about we and against them. It’s more about, we and them. It’s we and them again. Maybe we as a collective just not we and them is that we include already humans and,
[00:23:36] Eran Hadas: [00:23:36] yeah, totally agree. I think that if you think of the internet, it’s an internet. The meaning of internet is networks that are connected, but the networks that are connected are both computer networks and human networks.
[00:23:51] Nir Hindi: [00:23:51] Yeah, maybe that’s a better way to phrase it. Yeah. I want to go back to one of my questions because for me, art is the most humanistic aspect. At least for me. And, um, it’s kind of strike me to think that art can actually take this part of humans, which is the expressions of the human spirit, et cetera, which is art and actually start to create its own meaning it.
[00:24:19] And I always kind of say that for me, I feel that machines can actually create excellent Cubist painting, but I’m wondering if machines can invent cubism. What do you think?
[00:24:33] Eran Hadas: [00:24:33] I think computers may invent their own movements or their own style. I think it does happen in a, in a sense, but the main thing for now is that.
[00:24:44] Well, even if computers can make up no things there, they don’t have the awareness that we have. They may create a new movement that will resemble cubism, but they’re not going to understand that they’re creating a new movement. And we can understand that. On the other hand, I think that’s part of the fun is the fact that we can see that they are not aware of what they’re doing and we can, so, yeah we have this advantage over them and we feel good about ourselves that we are better than them for now, for now,
[00:25:19] Nir Hindi: [00:25:19] because I mean, you know, when you see Westworld know when it’s Westworld, when they develop consciousness, they’re the machines. Yeah. So you say, at least we need to enjoy, they maybe invent cubism, but they don’t know that they invented cubism.
[00:25:33] Eran Hadas: [00:25:33] Right. But on the one hand, we can understand that we can appreciate what they do and understand that in a way that they cannot. And the other thing is that we can compare ourselves through them. And sometimes we don’t have a choice. If you see something that was computer generated, you have this instinct to look at it and try to find the things that are imperfect or involve some partial awareness or, or something that looks suspicious.
[00:26:02] And, you know, okay, this is going to have been done by humans or. It doesn’t make sense for humans to create such a thing. I always say that it’s kind of a broken mirror. You’re looking at the mirror and something looks wrong. Something is suspicious. And I think that’s, this is our instinct. When we look at what computers have generated, and this is a way to appreciate what they do.
[00:26:29] Nir Hindi: [00:26:29] I mean, you know, you’re talking and I kind of said, starting to think about what is required from us as humans. It’s actually require to be present in the world and to be able to observe and recognize that there is probably gaps in understanding, but I feel that many people are so occupied in their day to day they don’t even take the time. To observe and understand that there are gaps. That there are strange situations
[00:26:57]Eran Hadas: [00:26:57] I, I totally agree. And therefore, I think that artists specifically are required to have critical attitudes towards technology and towards what’s going on with our. A digital culture.
[00:27:11] I think that many people who are early adopters of technology and have a good understanding of it are usually lacking the critical side that artists have. And on the other hand, a lot of artists are saying.”I don’t want to deal with technology. Let’s be repaint. Let me just be in my room.
[00:27:32] I don’t care about all this new things I have. It has nothing to do with me”. And I think that in this sense, sometimes the critical people are leaving the arena to the less critical people. And, uh, we are letting technology take the shape of the bad things that we don’t want to happen, because we are saying this is not for us.
[00:27:56] And I think that we, an activist approach. There’s going to be, to have people who would normally not deal with technology and deal with a criticism to participate and take a central part and shaping the future that. It revolves around technology.
[00:28:17] Nir Hindi: [00:28:17] So if I asked you in one sentence, what is the role of the artist?
[00:28:21] Eran Hadas: [00:28:21] I think to be the cyber skeptical, to be skeptical towards technology and to find how it affects society and to push it towards a more, just directions of technology to have technology be, uh, decentralized and to be a more social. Hmm.
[00:28:46]Nir Hindi: [00:28:46] because you worked a lot with the technology, I’m interested to understand what are the most influential nah, the technologies of today in your opinion, cause you work in startups as a startup as well, and you are responsible for the R and D team and you work as an artist. So you kind of take, I would say the commercial aspect, but you also have the critical aspects. So you’re in between worlds.
[00:29:09] Eran Hadas: [00:29:09] Well, there are some technologies that are more popular than others. Do they are that there are technologies that get all the hype and today the first of all, it’s machine learning AI,
[00:29:21] Nir Hindi: [00:29:21] I want to ask you like more, I would say articulated question. I’m not interested to know about the popular, I’m interested to hear your perspective or the most influential one.
[00:29:32] Eran Hadas: [00:29:32] I think that there are influential technologies that. I’m not as close to them. And this is a criticism, uh, on myself, like the crypto currency, the things that I’m not into it. And I know that I should, we should be very critical towards those technologies because they are, they impose real danger to all of us and they encourage, I guess, the.
[00:29:58] Technological divides. But the technologies that I see as influential apart from that are, uh, first, uh, machine learning and AI, uh, maybe reinforcement learning all those new technologies where computers learn from examples. Instead of by applying domain specific rules. And the other thing is the virtual spaces, virtual reality, extended reality, mixed reality, augmented reality, all the new realities that are not real life and, uh, In those environments, uh, you think that a lot of AI technologies are going to, to develop and improve themselves because they have an environment that was built from them that was designed for them.
[00:30:45] And, uh, I think that, yeah, can make some real progress over there.
[00:30:50]Nir Hindi: [00:30:50] So, what are the main technologies that you are working with beside the AI and machine learning?
[00:30:56]Eran Hadas: [00:30:56] It depends. I mean, I’m in my art. I usually think of a topic and then I try to work with the most relevant technology to that specific topic.
[00:31:07] And, uh, in addition, I teach a lot, so yeah, we in a second, we’ll talk about your teacher. Yeah. So this affects my selection of technologies because you know, if I have to master a technology in order to teach it, I have to do something with it first.
[00:31:23]Nir Hindi: [00:31:23] So one of your favorite project, at least the one that I like is project called Frankie.
[00:31:28] Right. can you elaborate on this project? What is this project about what you try to do? achieve?
[00:31:33] Eran Hadas: [00:31:33] It’s a collaboration with my and basically it’s a robot that, Interviews people asking them what it means for them to be human, because Frankie is the robot. It doesn’t know what it means to be human so it needs people to tell it. And the thing here is that philosophically we discussed the Turing test. This is not a computer that tries to make us believe it’s human on the country. It’s asks us what it means to be human, and we have to provide the human sensor to it. So in this sense, it’s a reversed, a Turing test.
[00:32:13] And the idea is that you enter a room where we’re Frankie sets and that’s a physical robot. It has some gestures that cannot it’s heads and the it’s body is made of a. The this old TV screen and
[00:32:30] Nir Hindi: [00:32:30] which they can see on our website. Right. Do you have the video?
[00:32:33] Eran Hadas: [00:32:33] Yeah. had this, uh, is an Android phone and the eyes are through surveillance cameras and, the interview is being recorded.
[00:32:42] Of course, it’s a seven minute interview and the artificial intelligence. Or not so much of an intelligence, but the artificial part is that it asks a question.
[00:32:55] And according to the answer, it’s given it chooses the next question, in order to deep, to dive deeper into a specific topic.
[00:33:05] Nir Hindi: [00:33:05] So what was the results that don’t worry, interesting results that you discover?
[00:33:09] What does it mean to be a human?
[00:33:10] Eran Hadas: [00:33:10] For me, I think it would be more interesting to try to find an answer that humans would give that is not human. You know, it’s, even if you try to trick it or try to do your best, not to be human, how can you escape your humanity? You know, it’s like, it’s unescapable, I think.
[00:33:30]but We got a lot of interviews and we also traveled with this robot, uh, around the world and ask different people and different continents and countries. But basically it’s a project about humanity, about how we see ourselves. And, I think that some people felt free to speak about things they don’t usually discuss when they knew that the.
[00:33:57] Entity that interviews them is not human.
[00:34:01]Nir Hindi: [00:34:01] And is there like maybe one or two response that surprise you? What does it mean to be human? That you remember?
[00:34:09]Eran Hadas: [00:34:09] Some people spoke about dreams. Some people tried to interact with the robot on robotic basis. Like your algorithms, you do this and that. And you’re probably.
[00:34:23] Working in a specific way. some people opened up it was really interesting telling about their, uh, romantic heartbreaks and, uh, a lot of personal things. And, uh, I think this was the most important part for me to feel that, to realize that people need someone or some thing. So listen, listen to them and we really need as humans.
[00:34:50] Companions, whether they’re human or not.
[00:34:54]Nir Hindi: [00:34:54] And what do you do with all those robots? Do you have a cemetery for robots or?
[00:35:00] Eran Hadas: [00:35:00] It depends on most of my projects. Aren’t, aren’t about physical computing, but yeah, I think it’s the really big problem for artists who they deal with physical computing, uh, both to keep the works and to document them.
[00:35:16] As they work, you know if the robot is based on a certain operating system operating system of, of a phone yeah. The phone automatically updates and then things start to break, you know? So it’s really difficult. And it’s different than a painting where restoration, how do you lead from salvation to a digital out?
[00:35:39] It’s really difficult. It’s an open question. A lot of people. Kind of document it over the shoulder. They did. Yes. Videotape what it does because there’s a nice example of modern based works. That’s counted on the speed of your home, modern in the nineties. And now with the internet, they they’re too fast.
[00:36:03] So it doesn’t work the way it was designed to work. So. Uh, those things change all the time and it’s really hard to recreate the experience, but I think it’s part of our reality that it’s becoming more ephemeral. It lives for shorter period,
[00:36:22]Nir Hindi: [00:36:22] maybe. Well, they actually will make the art more interesting because you won’t be able to experience it 10 years from now.
[00:36:28] You need to experience it now.
[00:36:29]Eran Hadas: [00:36:29] Exactly. And they think that, for instance, in the book, we discussed half reading, the physical part remains the same, but the virtual parts is in my hands. I can change it every day. Every day. When you open this book, you may realize that half of each poem is the same, but the other half changed completely.
[00:36:48] Nir Hindi: [00:36:48] Mm. So it actually make it more exciting. I would say.
[00:36:52]Eran Hadas: [00:36:52] I don’t know, but I really hope so.
[00:36:56] Nir Hindi: [00:36:56] So this one, one of the projects that you did, but you also published maybe eight books. Yes. All those books are poetry books.
[00:37:04] Eran Hadas: [00:37:04] But not all of them are computer generated.
[00:37:07] Nir Hindi: [00:37:07] That was my question. Okay. And English Hebrew?
[00:37:11]Eran Hadas: [00:37:11] No, my language is Hebrew.
[00:37:13] When I try to write in English, which is not a good enough probably to write, I feel like I’m losing my superpowers. You know, I live in Hebrew. Hebrew is a unique language and, uh I really like. It’s mysterious paths and strange behaviors. And even when we discussed code, there are a lot of things that happened there that happened because of.
[00:37:41] It’s linguistic structure. And I don’t think that the same project in English would be interesting for me,
[00:37:49] Nir Hindi: [00:37:49] even though you write a lot of Hebrew, you actually did the cool project like this year in English this year, eh, Israel hosted the, you have a vision together with the collaborators. You tell us in a second, you actually created the first song, eurovision song made by robot together with your team produce the song and you released it on the web.
[00:38:11] Can you tell us about this project? Because it’s actually a cool song that I can see becoming a heat.
[00:38:17] Eran Hadas: [00:38:17] That the name of the song is blue jeans and bloody tears. And the name of the band. Uh, or the project is sweaty machines.
[00:38:25]it was conceived by a guy called and it was sung by either Cohen who won the Euro vision for Israel in 1979, I think. And it was, it’s quite fun that the way it was built was I built the textual generated the generator, the generated. Uh, the lyrics and Oracle commercial company built the generator for the music and then a musical team, sweaty machines.
[00:38:57] Nir Hindi: [00:38:57] When you say musical team, it’s real people?
[00:38:59]Eran Hadas: [00:38:59] Real people. They did a human, a curatorial phase where they matched verses from the text with verses, from the generated music, it was a hundred percent generated, but it was. A hundred percent computer generated, but it was curated in order to fit the words to the music humans.
[00:39:22] And this must be sun and the producer of the song who was the real genius, who could take anything built by computer and turn it into it is a the producer of Toy. Yeah, the song that one, the Eurovision a year ago. Wow. so it was like a really good team of, of experts and, uh, which you can listen again on our.
[00:39:49] Page a podcast. I haven’t entered the YouTube page for it, but, uh, I, it had more than 2 million views within the first six months. That’s that I remember. Wow. Congrats. Its a lot Yeah. Thanks. Uh, it’s it’s really. Not that common for a poet to see his work being viewed by a lot of people. And it’s, it’s strange.
[00:40:17] I don’t think it’s the role, it’s the right role for poets, but, uh, it’s interesting, you know, you live only once.
[00:40:24] Nir Hindi: [00:40:24] So you also teach and you are a lecturer at Tel Aviv, university Shinnecock college of engineering, design, and art at the college of literary arts Jerusalem. in one of the courses called actually computation poetry.
[00:40:39] What do you teach them? What does it mean?
[00:40:42] Eran Hadas: [00:40:42] First of all it’s a good chance to thank the college for the literary arts, uh, Jerusalem for letting me teach such a class but the idea is that there are a lot of mechanisms to create poetry that go beyond. Expressing your own thoughts and feelings. the idea is to create insights with the readers, but it can be done in many ways, some procedural ways, some, unaware techniques like surealists writing or using drugs and other ways sleep deprivation and so forth. And th and there’s the way of using algorithms to do that. So this is my favorite class because I don’t have to prepare it’s my life. You know, it’s like, it’s the things that I do and love the most, and it’s fun every year to do that.
[00:41:38] Then I thought that. I’ve been teaching that for like five or six years in Jerusalem, but it became popular and they taught it in other places as well. And I was invited to be artist in residence at Caltech. And I also taught that class over there in California, which Was even cooler because you see different responses and perspectives from different people from different backgrounds and, uh, it’s amazing.
[00:42:07] Yeah. When people realize that what they learned about poetry is only half of the picture. And you know, it’s not just about spilling everything out, but you can also play with language and, and use techniques and use algorithms. You get a larger audience to get into it. Hmm.
[00:42:30] Nir Hindi: [00:42:30] You mentioned the artist in residence program and artists in residence program is actually a kind of a model taken from the cultural world, which an institution can invite you for a few weeks, a few months to work in their department, some companies doing it with their engineering teams.
[00:42:45] And you did artist in residence program in, as you mentioned in California. technology also known as the Caltech and MIT open documentary lab. You gave a talk, you gave a talk over there and some of the places mix of artists, and then some of the places are more just invitation. And I wonder because it, the literary arts Jerusalem I’m, I would assume it’s out students, but who is the audience? That you have in those places, when you do artist in residence program in Caltech, or you give talks in MIT, a documentary labs?
[00:43:18]Eran Hadas: [00:43:18] Yeah. So sometimes it’s really fun because for instance, in Caltech, you don’t start. With a major in literature, they do have this option, but a few students go for it and it doesn’t happen when they just started their studies.
[00:43:34] So basically most of the students are engineering students are computer science and so forth. And they have to take some classes that are not in computer. Yeah. So they see my class and they see, Oh, okay. So this is not computers, but I can use computers there. So let’s take it. So a lot of people who like technology are open minded and they want to see new things and it’s, they have this headstart where they know they.
[00:44:03] They can deal with something they like, but take it to a different direction. And I. Can you tell her that at first, when they started all those bizarre experiments people from the technological world liked it a lot more or were open to it a lot more than people in the arts. And I think it’s changed with time as technology became more and more involved in our day to day lives.
[00:44:32] But, uh, still, I must say that people from the technological world are. Looking for creativity. They’re looking for, for new perspectives, to deal with the same topics in order to find the next, I think sometimes, but they have. A genuine curiosity to see where technology can take us.
[00:44:55]Nir Hindi: [00:44:55] touching it an interesting point, at least for me, because I’m always looking for how artists can work with the world of business, because I believe artists can contribute a lot in many aspects and you are an artist that work in a technology company. And I wonder how the fact that you are an artist influence. There maybe your direct team, how it influenced your work in that sense, your day to day startup work?
[00:45:21] Eran Hadas: [00:45:21] I don’t know whether it influences my, my daily job, because sometimes, uh, you want to be really focused during your work and then fly away in your imagination when you go back home. But I do think there are a lot of similarities between the tech world and the art world. There is a constant search for creativity for the next big thing, or then the next cool thing. And I think that there’s a lot of project management that lies below both really because an art project is, is a project to be managed, especially when it involves budgets or when it involves technology and technology can change and things may work and may stop work.
[00:46:08] And you want it. If you want to, uh, put and a technological art installation in a museum. And it has to stand there for five years, then you have to work hard to make it a sustainable, sustainable. Yeah. So it’s a lot about risk management and understanding directions of the work and the trends and where it can go.
[00:46:33] So a lot of it is involving project management at the end, everything is project management.
[00:46:39] Nir Hindi: [00:46:39] You just gave me a new perspective to explain why I think art is relevant and why art is very similar to technology projects or technology work. is there something interesting you’re working on though these days?
[00:46:52] Eran Hadas: [00:46:52] Uh, first of all, this term, I’m teaching 11 hours a week, which is a lot. but I think that a direction that I’m trying to explore now, uh, genetic algorithms and I there’s this thing in the last couple of years. Texts are being texts elements are being treated as mathematical creatures, uh, starting with a word to VEC and words, embedding algorithms, uh, word to VEC is a Google algorithm.
[00:47:23] that turned words into vectors, into mathematic physical creatures. So I think of trying to combine this idea with the idea of gender algorithms, where a mathematical creature. Is resembling DNA sequence of genes and, texts can reproduce the th there’s a, you can create a project of selection, which is not a natural selection, but it is a kind of selection.
[00:47:52] Then a crossover, you kind of mate different texts and create the new combination as. They’re offspring and you can create mutations in texts. I’m trying to explore how texts can Rick, you can procreate by themselves.
[00:48:08] Nir Hindi: [00:48:08] Wow. Sounds exciting. I’m looking forward to hear about it, to see actually, or maybe experience yeah these, these projects. Great. Eran. Thank you very much for coming and sharing all your great work. I love it. We will put many of the projects that you mentioned and others on the website. Thank you.
[00:48:27]Eran Hadas: [00:48:27] Thank you so much. And I really appreciate your project then the, I really enjoyed the recoveries.
[00:48:33] Great. Thanks Eran. Thank you.